I’ve already posted how my mathematical model can assess the best drivers from 2020, regardless of the car. But what about the best cars? Was the Red Bull as good as Verstappen made it look? Who really should have come out on top in the race for third? And did any teams punch above their weight? Let’s find out,
1) Mercedes: 573 points -> 486 points
2) Red Bull: 319 points -> 282 points
It’s no surprise that Mercedes remain unchallenged at the top. The model predictably considers the Mercedes a dominant car, and although their score has decreased, the ratio of points to Red Bull is almost identical. The Red Bull is considered to be the 2nd best car, although the gap to the chasing pack is not as large as Max Verstappen made it look.
3) Racing Point: 195 points -> 227 points
4) McLaren: 202 points -> 226 points
The battle for 3rd place is just as close once the effect of drivers is removed, with the two cars thought of as almost identical. Note that the Racing Point score includes the 15 point penalty, so their predicted score without it is 242. Both teams have a small gain in points, which is reflective of the fact that they may have competent drivers, but none of them are at the level of Hamilton or Verstappen.
5) AlphaTauri: 107 points -> 209 points
6) Renault: 181 points -> 171 points
The model predicts that AlphaTauri would join the fight for third place if drivers were not considered, effectively making it a 4 way battle (or 5 way if Red Bull are included). The driver rankings were not kind to Gasly and Kvyat, with the natural consequence that the car itself is considered to be pretty decent. Renault have almost no change in points, with a slight drop in points indicating that Ricciardo has outperformed the car on occasion.
7) Ferrari: 131 points -> 78 points
Charles LeClerc and Sebastian Vettel are understandably considered an above average driver pairing, even factoring in Vettel’s poor season. The model interprets the team’s podiums largely to the quality of the drivers. The fact that Ferrari produced only the 7th best car demonstrates just how far they fell from 2019. Even if LeClerc is slightly overrated by the model (which I think seems likely), they are a long way from even the upper-midfield.
8) Alfa Romeo: 8 points -> 18 points
9) Haas: 3 points -> 16 points
10) Williams: 0 points -> 6 points
The bottom three remain in the same order and still form a definitive class C. All three have gained a significant number of points though. In the case of Alfa Romeo and Haas, it suggests that there was slightly more performance in the car that the drivers were unable to unlock. For Williams, the situation is more complex. The model works by multiplying a team’s actual score by a correction factor, but because Williams scored 0, a fudge is applied. This is done by comparing non-points finishes to that of Haas and Alfa Romeo. Including these, the Williams car-driver combo was predicted to net 5 points (the implication being that Williams were unlucky not to finish ahead of Haas in the championship). The removal of drivers corrects this to 6 points, suggesting that the Williams drivers performed about as well as expected. As discussed in the driver rankings, the performance level of Russell and Latifi is also rather uncertain, and so this score should be seen as a rough estimate, rather than a definitive guide.
It is often said that in F1 that the car is more important than the driver. Removing driver differences from the 2020 season only caused significant changes to two teams (AlphaTauri and Ferrari). For those who think of formula one in terms of driver performances, it is slightly depressing to see how much larger the impact of the team is. However, it is also perhaps a reflection of the quality of formula one drivers as a whole. If you’re truly racing against the best of the best, it is reasonable that all the racers are of a comparable level. The results also indicate that the field would have been significantly closer without individual drivers considered. This implies that another saying in F1, “the best drivers end up in the best cars”, also has a ring of truth to it.
One of the main reasons that removing the drivers didn’t upset the standings too much, is that no team had two star drivers performing at a high level. Whilst there is no chance of an individual driver from a midfield team winning the championship, they can have a significant effect on their team’s standings. Renault may have only managed 5th in the constructors championship (and had the 6th most competitive car, according to my analysis), but Ricciardo managed to beat both McLaren’s, both AlphaTauri’s, a Racing Point driver, and even a Red Bull driver in the drivers championship. It may be a team sport, but the driver can still make a big difference.